Saif Benjaafar joins the University of Michigan Industrial and Operations Engineering (U-M IOE) department from the University of Minnesota where he was the McKnight Presidential Endowed Professor and Distinguished McKnight University Professor. He holds PhD and MS degrees from Purdue University and a BS degree from the University of Texas at Austin.
Benjaafar’s research is in operations, focusing on sustainable operations and innovation in business models, including the sharing economy, on-demand services and digital marketplaces. Throughout his career, Benjaafar has pioneered novel approaches to optimize systems’ design, operation and management across many industry sectors including manufacturing, service, and transportation. His research, at the intersection of operations research, economics, and computing, has consistently pushed boundaries, resulting in the development of sustainable solutions that drive economic growth while minimizing environmental impact.
“I am excited about joining the University of Michigan,” said Benjaafar. “I see tremendous opportunities for collaboration across disciplines in critical areas. With colleagues, I am sure we can position the university as the preeminent leader in inventing the technology and the business models for a future economy that is sustainable, resilient and equitable.”
While at the University of Minnesota, Benjaafar served as Head of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) where he led the transformation of ISyE from a small graduate program into a leading department. He also served as the Director of the Initiative on the Sharing Economy, a university-wide initiative focused on changing the attitude toward exclusive ownership and consumption of resources to one of shared use. The initiative involved participation across the university, including management, engineering, industrial ecology and public law.
Benjaafar’s contributions have been widely recognized. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), as well as the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Ministry of Education (MOE) in Singapore. He has received numerous awards and honors for his research, including recognition from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), where he has been a fellow since 2020 and currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Service Science where he led a major transformation of the journal. He is also a fellow of the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE).
His research has been widely cited and was recognized by several best paper awards, including the prestigious Best Management Science paper award from INFORM and the Harold Kuhn Award. He has served on the editorial boards of various journals and as chair of several national and international conferences.
“We are excited to welcome Saif to Michigan IOE,” said Julie Simmons Ivy, U-M IOE Department Chair. “His pioneering work in sustainable business operations engineering will enable the development of rich collaborations across the university and globally and advance our footprint in this field.”
In addition to his research, Benjaafar is a founding member of the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) where he served as Pillar Head of Engineering Systems and Design. He has consulted for various companies such as 3M, General Mills, Honeywell and the World Bank. He serves on the board of directors of Hourcar, a social car-sharing organization where he helped lead it into the largest such organization in the country. His work was featured by major news outlets across the US, Asia and Europe further settling him as a thought leader in the field.
Later this academic year Benjaafar will be awarded a named professorship as a reflection of his contributions to the field. The ceremony will take place at the University of Michigan with a date to be announced later this fall.